If you watch any TV at all, you have probably seen at least one of these—a commercial talking about the decisions we make in our lives. The theme is typically one of three:
- “I may have made some bad decisions in the past, but buying product X now will fix that.” (The Ragu versus Prego scenario I just saw). OR
- “I can’t decide what I should do,” and then some supposed expert tells us that product Y will solve their dilemma. OR
- “I’m a great decision-maker because I chose product Z.”
There aren’t any real falsehoods in these ads, but there is a hidden underlying truth. We, the television- watching public, have great concerns and doubts about our decision-making ability.
And why shouldn’t we have doubts? The vast majority of us have never been trained how to make good decisions, other than perhaps a simple decision tree or forced-decision matrix. We don’t use a formal process, frequently relying instead on our good intentions. And even if we do use a process, our model typically ends there. We don’t go further and look for the external factors that skew our decisions, much less do anything about controlling those factors. We aren’t even able to describe the personality characteristics that strongly influence decision-making, much less identify our own personality characteristics.
It isn’t that relying on our good intentions is wrong. It’s just that a method that simplistic isn’t always enough, especially with important decisions such as which car to buy or what prescription drug we should take.
With our lack of knowledge, training and competency, we are ripe for the strong stimuli and pressures that a multi-million dollar ad campaign can throw on us. We end up buying what they decide we should buy, instead of what we really need or what will really help us. At best we allow them to sway our decisions or, at worst, have total control over them. And then we pat ourselves on the back for making a “good decision” when all we have actually done is decided to listen to Madison Avenue. Not really a valid process. It may work sometimes, but to allow this to happen all the time is to relinquish our ability to essentially make decisions.
How do you regain the control over your purchasing decisions? Of course, knowledge is the answer. In my book, Make No Mistake: How to make the best decision the first time, I show how the three components of decision making (7-step process, personality characteristics, and external factors) all come into play in decisions. Our acquisition of the facts, understanding the theories, having procedures (and actually implementing those procedures), are what make us strong decision makers. When we do all that then we can honestly say we are buying what we have decided is best for us and that there is minimal if any correlation between a bad hair style you may have tried when you were 20 years old and not choosing the most popular brand of jarred tomato sauce.
LABCAST: Be sure to attend Annette Dubrouillet’s Lab Manager Academy webinar, “Make No Mistake: The Three Components of Decision Making” on Nov. 4, or afterward at www.labmanager.com/decisionmaking to watch the archived video.